by MK Scott
Café Nordo is proud to present The Champagne Widow playing June 7-30 at Nordo’s Culinarium in historic Pioneer Square. Written by Opal Peachey, composed by Annastasia Workman, directed by Billie Wildrick (Annie, recently presented at The 5th Avenue Theatre) and choreographed by Nikki Long, the ensemble of 8 skilled performers will triple down on music for The Champagne Widow.
The Champagne Widow is set in the underground caves of France, where Champagne’s most luxurious bottles of bubbles come to life, and will sing the stories of the women who made them famous.
Opal Peachey (Seattle Vice, Bohemia) is also the star of the show and we chatted the other day by email.
MK Scott: As the writer and star of The Champagne Widow, what attracted you to this role and story?
Opal Peachey: I had a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Imperial Brut, gifted by a dear friend. ‘Veuve’ Barbe Nicole Clicquot-Ponsardin’s picture is on the top of the cork. Veuve Clicquot is a woman? Who is she? What is her story? Learning that the word ‘Veuve’ meant ‘Widow’ in French was even more fascinating. What was this woman’s story? It turns out that, until 1944, women in France were considered dependents of their fathers or husbands. But, once widowed, a woman could own a business and have a bank account. Veuve Clicquot took over her deceased husband’s wine company and went on to corner the Russian market after Waterloo, define the methode champenoise with her raumage technique and invent rosé champagne. She did so much in a time when women were expected to sit quietly, marry, birth children and die, without record. I went down a bubble filled rabbit hole.
Fortunately, there are a few excellent resources on Veuve Clicquot, including Tilar Mazzeo’s ‘The Widow Cliquot,’ a New York Times best seller. Veuve Clicquot’s story is not widely known, but it has inspired many women before me. I felt like Barbe Nicole’s story would make an excellent one-person show, a good vehicle for my writing and performing talents. The history of Champagne is also a perfect fit for my home audience – as a company member in the immersive dinner theater, Café Nordo.
However, as I wrote the first draft, embarking upon research (and a trip to France) with my dramaturg, Daryle Conners, she found that Barbe was the first of many Champagne Widows of Wine. Because Champagne the region is smack dab next to Germany, it is more war-torn than most places on earth. Lots of dead husbands, and many, many stories of Veuves whom, despite the more crushing of life’s obstacles, went on to flourish in the global wine industry. As more and more widows began to be unearthed, it became clear that this was not a one-woman show, but a full production. The show features the true stories of not only Veuve Clicquot, but Louise Pommery, Mathilde Laurent-Perrier and Lily Bollinger. All women, all luxury Champagne brands, all widows.
MK: This show is directed Seattle theatrical star, Billie Wildrick. What has been the best thing about working with her?
Opal: The best thing about working with Billie is her tireless commitment to excellence, and her love and inside-out knowledge of the musical theater art form. She’s also an ‘actor’s director’ and a blast to be around. I approached Billie with the 2nd draft of my script. I felt strongly that a musical was the most creative way to tell these dramatic, historical stories. She is, hands down, the best person for the job. Billie had very helpful ideas for me about moving the script towards a magical musical production (with a tasting flight and 4-course meal!), while staying true to my own irreverent humor and the ultimate mission: Making these stories of successful women known to those who enjoy their wine.
MK: Annastasia Workman is your composer for this show. How did she complement your lyrics?
Opal: Annastasia is a genius and I’m so glad she said yes to this project. I’ve co-composed with Mark Siano on several shows, but in her gentle way, Annastasia said that her best mèthode is to be sole composer. I wrote a first draft of lyrics for all the songs (music unwritten), with an understanding that Annastasia could tweak and change anything she wished. To my delight, she kept most of the lyrics! Writing lyrics before there is music is an interesting challenge and I had quite a lot of fun with it. I also give credit to Billie, who shaped and wrote lyrics with Annastasia and I for several of the songs. It’s a matriarchal process we’re having here. Very appropriate, considering the subject matter.
MK: Last time, I saw you along with your other writing partner, Mark Siano in Bohemia. Will we see you collaborate again in the future?
Opal: Oh yes, we have so much fun. The sky is the limit with big ideas and Mr. Siano. We’ll be remounting Bohemia at The Triple Door for 16 shows in 2020, and then…perhaps taking it to a wider audience far from home? There are also plans to bring a new show to the Triple Door in 2021.
Be sure to check out the The Champagne Widow from June 7-30 (Wednesday – Saturday at 7:30pm; Sundays at 6:00pm) at Nordo’s Culinarium (109 S. Main St., in Seattle’s Pioneer Square).
TICKETS: $79.00 includes the performance and a prix fixe menu. Beverage and cocktail service additional. The Champagne Widow is suitable for audiences 18 and older Online Box Office: http://bit.ly/VeuveNordo or call 206-209-2002.